I delved deep into my own past over the weekend.
I won’t go into graphic detail, but was asked to write a letter to some students at my former high school. The reasons and the ideas are not worth repeating, I don’t suppose, except that I had to work very hard to pull the little, minute details needed to write an intelligent and inspirational letter. Unfortunately, the successive years I’ve endured have purged many of the memories that I hadn’t really thought I’d need again.
But like so many of my thought here, a friend asked me what it was like thinking back to being the age my own daughter is now. What did I think?
The reality is, it didn’t bother me as much as I guess it should have.
There are a couple reasons for this: first, I can look back on those days now with a legitimate amount of fondness. At the time I was – to quote a classic rock song – an angry young man. I felt misunderstood. I felt I didn’t fit in with the norm. I wanted to break out, not feel stifled. Yet through all that I kept close ties to home and my family. I also could very well have closed off some very good people who very truly made an impact on my life.
I was lucky, though, that I met a woman in college who basically looked at me and said “so what?!” So what if you feel that way, it’s your life. And by the way . . . are you really that way, or are you just being closed-minded? What’s stopping you from being the person you want to be, certainly not other people . . . the only person preventing you from doing that is you. Get some confidence, for God’s sake. That’s what it was, too, a lack of confidence…in myself and the abilities I already knew I had.
It’s like lifting a curtain from in front of you. I was married to her for eighteen years until she passed. She helped me to see that I had a great foundation, something that really shouldn’t weigh my mind like I’d been letting it do.
And by the way, take a look at what those high school years propelled me toward: I became a journalist. I’ve seen amazing things. I have met presidents. . . world leaders . . . I saw the Pentagon with the gaping hole left by terrorists; I uncovered a loophole in the FDA’s regulations; I found pieces of the Space Shuttle Columbia that fell to the ground after it crashed; I climbed a waterfall in Jamaica; I repelled down a cliff to get to a story in Arizona; I met BB King; I met Kenny Burrell; I’ve been to Afghanistan and seen wounded soldiers rescued. I also started my own band, opened for and got stiffed by Foghat; played multiple music festivals; I recorded two CD’s and one of them is still selling copies on iTunes. All those things are possible because I propelled myself to greater heights. I wasn’t stifled by my youth, I was encouraged by it. I just needed to understand that.
But back to my initial thoughts . . . so what is my thought about having been that age and my daughter at that age now? I’m proud. I can look back at those years and actually see that those years propelled me to where I am. Sure, I’m the only parent in my household now, but I am strong, solid, and knowledgeable enough to handle that. My daughter doesn’t have that chip on her shoulder, she’s a smart, funny, quirky and talented kid. She knows it. We all – the five of us in this house – faced adversity. Now we walk another road.
But I can look at what I did and see my daughter doing better. Isn’t that the path we all want? She’s going off – with my encouragement – to do her passion in life. Each of my kids have different talents, but I make sure they are confident in those talents. I was encouraged but for whatever reason I never thought I had the strength to handle it all.
I faced a tragedy. So did my kids. But we are not defined by tragedy. We build on our lives looking back at that experience. I lost my wife . . . but I have gotten closer to others in the successive 20 months since. I’ve walked my own road and done things differently that I did the last 18. That’s okay.
I look at my kids and see them making their own paths as well. It’s interesting to see my own past and think about what I might have thought my life was going to be.
No, my life’s not what I thought it would be at this point. But in many, many ways . . . it’s been much better.